Abandoned ships in San Francisco harbour during the gold rush 1849
LESSONS FROM THE CALIFORNIAN GOLD RUSH
CONCERNS OVER POPULATION EXODUS TO THE GOLD FIELDS
Gold was first discovered on the road to Bathurst but was initially kept a secret as the colonial government didn’t want the already sparse population to disperse to the new found gold fields west of the Blue Mountains. Nor did they want convicts escaping to dig holes for themselves in search of the magic glitter.
After all you can’t eat gold.
Having learnt from the Californian Gold Rush when many free settlers crossed the ocean to try their luck in the Americas. The first discoveries of gold were initially kept hidden from the populace to quell any hiccups in the early planning and settlement of the colony.
Mass emigration of the city populace to the gold fields depleted the work forces in the cities, Melbourne in particular saw a lot of men leave for the Ballarat and Bendigo Gold fields.
(Goldmine, Bendigo - The Holterman Collection , c1870-1875)
A contained populace is also far easier to govern than one spread out across a vast countryside, as is resource management for a colony who still knew very little of the landscape, the reversal of seasons, nor the alien flora and fauna.
A fact not lost on early bush rangers who terrorised the gold fields.
In 1848 the Californian Gold Rush sent the world into a frenzy. An exodus of free folk from Australia fled to the gold fields of California.
“Miners extracted more than 750,000 pounds of gold during the California Gold Rush”.
(Gold Rush of 1849, n.d.)
The small labour forces that existed here in Australia were needed for the new found pastoral industries and the colonial administrators were fearful of depleting an already limited labour force.
To stem the flow brought on by gold fever the colony administrators kept the discovery of gold secret until it was apparent that it was in the colony’s best interests to create their own mint, the first royal mint outside of England, and establish a local currency and economy.
Australia’s population trebled to 1.7 million people in the space of 20 years
(What happened if a goldminer found gold?, n.d.)
(Gold rushes, n.d.)
@kieran.wicks #GoldRushStories #AustralianHistory #VoicesofFederation #OneTownataTime #California #Exodus #Filmmaker #BritishEmpire #Producer #Gold #FYP ♬ original sound - Kieran.Wicks
The British Empire was eager to establish Victoria as a more permanent settlement, and had no desires or need for another penal colony, as they had in Sydney, Hobart and Perth.
The French were also spreading their tentacles of colonisation throughout the Southern Hemisphere and the British knew that in order to secure their dominion over South Eastern Australia they would need to attract free-settlers to the colonies, in a similar fashion to how the USA approached populating California.
Australia’s rich gold deposits symbolised an opportunity for the British Empire to pay back its significant international debts and expand the empire, ultimately working to help facilitate the funding of the industrialisation of Australia, fortifying the British Empire as ‘the’ world superpower until the mid-20th century, when the USA took its place, brought on the economic turmoil resulting from two World Wars.
When it became clear to the powers that be that they couldn’t keep the figurative ‘cat in the bag’, Australia’s community leaders attempted to learn as much as they could from the experiences of the Californian gold fields, emulating the best aspects whilst avoiding the worst.